Seeing the evils of the causes they loved

Our favorite, Marty Peretz, on the new Radosh book:

To be sure, Radosh grasps that greater forces have been at play in the disintegration of the left in the United States and in the world. There are the basic facts that socialism doesn’t explain intrinsic social and economic behavior and that, as a blueprint for the organization of polity and society, it has literally everywhere been a dismal failure and, in many of these places, unbelievably cruel besides. Alas, one cannot argue with much of this….

Here is what Stalinists (no, a Leninist was no better) lied about: the police state, the show trials, the deliberate famines, the repression of the peasantry, the massive ethnic transfers, the executions, the great terror, the Gulag, the systematic and murderous anti-Semitism, the squelching of free thought, the Trotsky plot against the revolution (no, a Trotskyite was no better, either), the perversion of the judiciary, the Hitler-Stalin pact. According to them there were no “widows of the revolution,” in David Remnick’s affecting phrase. And, if circumstance happened to catch them in flagrante, they would lapse into that hoariest of justifications, “historical necessity.” These are the atrocities which the blacklisted denied or defended or asserted were forced on the Kremlin by the West, the flabbiest of excuses. These men and women lived by a tissue of fabrication, and they passed that tissue–like a genotype–on to their children. Instead of being an apologist for Stalin, Richard Dreyfuss shilled for Arafat.

The “alas” speaks volumes.

Then Jonathon Mirsky, formerly a great admirer of Mao, according to Scott Johnson, who knew him at Dartmouth:

Not long ago I wrote an enthusiastic review of “Mao: The Untold Story,” the new biography by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday. The June issue of the Far Eastern Economic Review, in which my review appeared, was promptly barred from China…..Mao Zedong died in 1976. Why is it that almost 30 years later, in a China where freedom of speech is said to be on the rise, attacking the Chairman remains taboo?

Chang’s and Halliday’s biography is a nothing-is-sacred act of demolition. Chang says of Mao, “He was as evil as Hitler or Stalin, and did as much damage to mankind as they did.” The authors assert that Mao was responsible for upwards of 70 million peacetime deaths, including at least 37 million in the 1959-1961 famine that arose from Mao’s harebrained economic policies.

On one level, recognizing evil as evil, and shucking off the romantic and sentimental attachments of youth, ought not to be that big a deal. Yet we see that time and again it is. Therefore, we continue to admire those who do it.

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